August 19th, 2012
04:32 PM ET
10 years ago

Missouri Republican claims 'legitimate rape' rarely results in pregnancy

(CNN) - U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, who won Missouri's GOP Senate primary earlier this month and will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in November's general election, said Sunday that he misspoke when he claimed "legitimate rape" rarely resulted in pregnancy.

Answering a question about whether or not he thought abortion should be legal in the case of rape, Akin explained his opposition by citing unnamed bodily responses he said prevented pregnancy.

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"First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said of rape-induced pregnancy in an interview with KTVI. A clip of the interview was posted online by the liberal super PAC American Bridge.

"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin continued. He did not provide an explanation for what constituted "legitimate rape."

He added: "But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."

In a statement Sunday, Akin wrote that he misspoke in the interview. He maintained his opposition to abortion for victims of rape.

"In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it's clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year," Akin wrote. "Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve."

"I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue," Akin continued. "But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election."

Statistics on pregnancies that result from rape are difficult to produce, since rape is a crime that often goes unreported. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, along with Planned Parenthood, each estimate that 5% of rapes lead to pregnancy. A 1996 study from the Medical University of South Carolina found the same percentage, adding that 32,101 pregnancies occurred annually from rape.

Akin, a six-term U.S. congressman, touted his socially conservative values on the primary campaign trail, and gained the support of 2008 presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He was one of the first members of Congress to join the Tea Party Caucus in 2010 and has easily won re-election in recent years.

The lawmaker raised a notable $2.2 million this cycle, as of July 18.

Akin - who sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee - has long held a hard-line stance on abortion. He is opposed to abortions in all circumstances, and has said he also opposes the morning after pill, which he equates to abortion.

McCaskill, who is up against Akin in November's general election, almost immediately struck upon her opponent's comments Sunday, writing on Twitter: "As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep Akin's comments about victims this AM."

She later released a statement condemning her rival as "ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape."

“The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive," she continued.

McCaskill's website also splashed Akin's comments across the homepage, and included a link where supporters could donate money to McCaskill's campaign.

Republicans consider McCaskill, first elected in 2006, highly vulnerable in her re-election bid for a second term. Ahead of the GOP primary, a Mason-Dixon poll showed the senator falling behind each of the three main GOP competitors in hypothetical match-ups among registered Missouri voters.

A spokeswoman for Mitt Romney wrote that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, did not share Akin's sentiments on rape.

"Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.

CNN's Ashley Killough, Kevin Liptak and Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.

Filed under: Abortion • Missouri
soundoff (758 Responses)
  1. darren

    Thats a Repub for you.

    August 19, 2012 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  2. sayer

    We are in trouble if the tea partiers take over.

    August 19, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  3. The King

    Come on, hes a republican. They all think like this. Difference being, this one actually vocalizes it.
    Congratulations Sen McCascill

    August 19, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  4. Ann Harkey

    Does this idiot not know how babies are made?

    August 19, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  5. $am

    Why should one narrow-minded fool be making such important decisions for women and their bodies? Get rid of these guys!

    August 19, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  6. chris from chicago

    most of you look at the R behind his name and judge him and everything he says blindly.....

    1) unnamed mechanism – he explicitly stated pregnancy from abortion is rare, and medical professionals have stated that there is a natural birth control where women's bodies reject conception in situations like this.....

    2) "legitimate rape" if you take this in context you see he means that in "real cases of rape....the women's body have a way to shut down...."

    3) Some say being against abortion makes you "socially regressive." I think being in favor of killing babies is socially regressive.

    I hope many of you who commented feel dumb now.

    August 19, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  7. Thinks2010

    D'oh! Open mouth, insert foot. Ummmmm, track shoes, yummy.

    August 19, 2012 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  8. Sandra Harston

    I was going to make a comment but I am just so angry. I hate these old men who think they have the right to determine if a rape is "forcible" or "legitimate. And to say the female body takes care of that? Is he just stupid? What is wrong with the American people that this shell of a human being has been elected to represent anyone? Un-elect him, please. Send him back under the rock he crawled out of.

    August 19, 2012 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  9. marshu

    Why does anyone vote for these idiots?

    August 19, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  10. timz

    Something's deep here, but it's not the empathy.

    August 19, 2012 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  11. BobInIrvine

    Just when I thought nothing a RepubliCAN'T would surprise me, here's a new low.

    Interesting that there's not one Foxtard commenting on this. Even they must be embarrassed.

    August 19, 2012 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  12. Thinks2010

    Coverage of conservatives should move from the news to the sci-fy channel where make-belive "science" is very popular.

    August 19, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  13. James PDX

    So 32,000+ pregnancies from rape per year isn't that much? Perhaps Todd would like to support those 32k unwanted babies that he wants to force mothers to carry?

    August 19, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  14. Privateergm

    Ladies and Gentleman; Your 2013 GOP................

    August 19, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  15. rs

    It is a miracle any woman in America votes for the GOP. Look guys- placing the rapist's rights, or the rights of a zygote over a full-grown American citizen is disgusting.

    August 19, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  16. Thomas

    How do guys this stupit get electied ?
    America , look at who we elect as leaders. Rep. Todd Akin needs to get a job on the Bass Fishing Channel , talk about bait and beer .

    August 19, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  17. Gandalf the White

    Wow, just wow. It's too bad that he does not support abortion even in the instance of rape.

    I'm also curious about whether he's planning on educating the medical profession and the rest of the world about how a woman's body automatically stops an undesirable pregnancy. Think of the money so many women and their families can save on birth control!

    August 19, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  18. joechandler

    What's this guy doing running for the senate?. He should be GOP nominee for the president.

    August 19, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  19. Marshall

    Numb skull has taken on a new meaning. If this is the kind of thinking you want then by all means vote Republican in the presidential election

    August 19, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  20. SA

    He only 'misspoke' after he got slammed for stupidity.
    I have no doubt he really believes what he originally said.
    What a moron, and so typical of right-wingers.
    Of course if it happened to his daughter, it'd be a whole other story.
    The GOP mantra - "Do as I say, not as I do".

    August 19, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  21. James PDX

    It's a good thing Todd only wants to punish the rapist, and it's clear that forcing the victim to have an unwanted and unplanned child, pay to raise it, and to live with that child for the rest of their life knowing it's the progeny of their rapist isn't a punishment at all. Totally fair.

    August 19, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  22. Jim

    The fact that he is a congressman is really scary, but not as scary as this very ignorant and out of touch comment! How stupid is this man and how studpid are the pople who have voted him into our national goverment 6 times! Unbelievable! Any comment from Rev. Huckabee? probably not...distance anyone?

    August 19, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  23. Dano mick

    I live in Missouri and Todd Akin is an example of the kind of stupidity that is trying to bring our state down. However, there are a lot of smart and resourceful people here; Akin will never get my vote and I think he will lose this November

    August 19, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  24. ted

    No you did not misspeak. This is actually and really what Republicans think. They think in the case of rape that the woman enjoyed it and is looking forward to birthing a baby conceived by rape. The GOP is at war against women.

    There is only one clear choice in November – Obama/Biden – the two men who have great women in their lives and the two men who respect women.

    August 19, 2012 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  25. Papersbrim

    Wow him and Ryan go hand in hand on this subject Scary stuff a closed mind is!

    August 19, 2012 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
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